Genetic resources are genetic material of current or potential use. In technical terms "genetic material" means any material of plant, microbial or animal origin, including reproductive and vegetative propagating material, containing functional units of heredity;
In everyday terms genetic resources range from, for example, fully mature plants, animals and microbes to seeds, cuttings, conserved embryos, eggs, and semen.
Diverse genetic resources are important for maintaining an efficient and sustainable farming industry, as they allow the development of varieties and breeds to cope with new demands. Genetic selection also has important consequences for animal health and welfare, and has an important role to play in reducing environmental pollution from livestock.
Defra is responsible for policy on genetic resources for food and agriculture for England and Wales. The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources contribute directly to Defra's objectives concerning a sustainable, competitive food supply chain, sustainable, diverse and adaptable farming and sustainable management of natural resources. Indigenous livestock breeds have a particular role to play in managing the rural environment and assisting in maintaining wild biological diversity
The conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources for food and agriculture is a widely supported international objective as a contribution to efforts to achieve global poverty elimination and world food security. Defra, in collaboration with the Department for International Development, has a continuing UK role to play in this area particularly in view of the rich diversity of plant varieties and animal breeds that the UK possesses that are of international interest.